Has the raid
of Mavi Marmara damaged Israel
's intelligence capabilities against the Iranian threat? According to British newspaper Sunday Times, Israel's defense establishment has expressed serious concern about the deteriorating relations with Turkey and that Turkish government might close down a Turkish-based Israeli intelligence station which is a linchpin in monitoring Iran.
An Israeli source told the newspaper, “If that happens Israel will lose its ears and nose, which watch and sniff the Iranians’ back garden.”
The said intelligence station is located on Turkish soil not far from the Iranian border.
The article, which lays out the complications encountered in the flotilla raid last week under the headline "Operation calamity," concludes with an estimation that the Israeli operation, intended to maintain the blockade on Gaza, could have weakened Israel's defenses against a much more serious threat of a nuclear Iran.
The Sunday Times brought forth a testimony of a Flotilla 13 soldier who claimed, "Normally, before an operation, we sit in the choppers silent like the grave. We are tense and worried. This time we were in high spirits, talking and cracking jokes."
As it was also reported in Israeli media, the soldiers boarded the Mavi Marmara expecting a simple, easy, and speedy operation which they had deemed "fit for the police." They did not expect to be attacked by the ship's passengers, and certainly not to be held captive, some unconscious, in the belly of the vessel.
An al-Jazeera photographer, Andre Abu-Khalil told The Sunday Times that the Turks "took the wounded Israeli soldiers to the lower decks. Twenty Turks made a human shield to prevent the Israeli soldiers from approaching. They knocked on the metal walls to warn them not to advance. Then, using a loudspeaker, they said to the Israelis that the soldiers would be freed only after the IDF provided medical help to the wounded people.”
According to Abu-Khalil, about 10 minutes later, "It took about 10 minutes till the Israeli soldiers opened fire. One of the people got a bullet in his head; the other was shot in his neck.” The newspaper reported that the soldiers fired at the militants guarding the machine room where the Turks had tied a wounded soldier to the pipes. The other wounded soldiers used as bargaining chips by the militants had managed to escape and jumped ship.
The British newspaper also outlined the background leading up to the flotilla affair, and claimed that Israeli's commandos are responsible for assassinating the senior Syrian officer Mohammad Suleiman, advisor to Syrian President Bashar Assad, during the summer two years ago. He was shot by a single sniper shot in the port city of Tartus while sunbathing in his backyard.
According to The Sunday Times' report, the commandos traveled on a private Israeli yacht in order to disguise their operations, only to return it later after what was described as "a daring operation." Following this legacy, the newspaper claimed, the Flotilla 13 commandos were disappointed to learn of their recent operation to stop a flotilla of "peace activists," and therefore, were mentally unprepared for the resistance they met onboard.